Postdoctoral fellow Romi Jain with the Faculty of Management says an inclusive classroom prevents dissonance for international students. (Supplied)

UBC Okanagan research points to inclusive classrooms

International students often feel dissonance studying abroad, researcher says

Leaving home for university can be a challenging time for students. It’s a big step to leave the nest, but it’s an even bigger leap to leave your own country.

This year, UBC Okanagan will have more than 580 international students joining the academic community to pursue their studies and the Faculty of Management has put forward specific recommendations to ensure this transition is a smooth one.

The UBCO is home to students representing 106 countries from around the globe, postdoctoral fellow Romi Jain said.

Her research, published in Writing and Pedagogy, encourages all-encompassing learning environments to guarantee inclusivity in the classroom.

Jain, who has lived the experience first hand, said teaching needs to be designed to be inclusive and intercultural to prevent unintentional dissonance.

Examples, Jain said, could be instructors believing a student is quiet because they don’t wish to participate in class discussions, or a student won’t wish to participate in debate as it’s wrong to argue in their culture.

“Dissonance can be described as the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs or attitudes relating to behavioural decisions or attitude change,” Jain said, noting it’s not uncommon for international students to feel this way as they’re faced with new coursework that may conflict with their background.

“If not harnessed, such dissonance can be at the heart of their unresolved dilemmas, unspoken feelings and unshared stories, facts and experiences.”

To encourage more inclusivity and enhance a classroom experience, Jain said trust must be established with international students; properly pronounce students’ names and don’t spotlight international students as a representative of their community.

A diverse classroom presents the opportunity for everyone to benefit and learn from one another and Jain said professors should use the cultural beliefs and backgrounds of international students to enrich the learning environment for everyone.

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